Today, the Syrian conflict enters its 8th year. Despite desperate need for peace, the situation in Syria remains dramatically unstable and leaves its people suffering. New violence throughout the country reminds us of the need to commit attention and resources to helping our brothers and sisters caught in this horrific conflict.
“Death is falling from the sky, at random…and we are powerless to stop it,” describes one JRS Syria staff member of the current situation. Damascus continues to be under fire, with hundreds dying from mortar shells. Afrin, an area that was already hosting a very high number of displaced people, is now a place from which thousands of people are fleeing, and with nowhere to go. In eastern Ghouta, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped under fire. JRS Syria staff indicate that because of the current violence, people who in the past were determined to remain in Damascus or Syria now feel that they have no option but to flee and seek refuge elsewhere. But, with borders remaining closed, it is difficult to leave.
“JRS is profoundly concerned by the current situation. In the last few weeks we have had to suspend some of our activities or curtail the scope of the work we do in some cases. This clearly has had a negative effect on those whom we seek to serve,” says Nawras Sammour SJ, Regional Director, JRS Middle East. “It is heartwarming to note that, despite the great risks involved, our JRS team members continue to reach out to those affected by the conflict. Our fervent prayer and hope is that violence by all the warring factions will cease immediately, and that normalcy, security, and sustainable peace for all will return to Damascus and every part of our long-suffering nation.”
For many, the challenges extend beyond trying to escape conflict, with exorbitant housing costs, high unemployment rates, and limited access to essential services such as health and education. And, those who do manage to cross the border, face their own set of problems. Families have been separated, resources are sparse, and the opportunity for resettlement is nearly impossible. Countries like Lebanon are strapped for resources, having taken on 1.5 million Syrian refugees, the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, and other donor governments and institutions have not fully lived up to their commitments.
“We hope that donors and institutions, including the United States Government, recommit to the Syrian people and to the innocent victims of a horrific war,” says Giulia McPherson, JRS/USA Director of Advocacy and Operations. “As we enter another year of conflict in Syria, we are reminded that these commitments have impacts on an entire generation of children, and we must do more to respond.”
The resources and support of host and donor government and institutions have real impact on refugees, like Amira. Amira managed to escape to Lebanon, but she is separated from members of her family and she struggles to get by. More than a year ago she received a call from UNHCR confirming that her application for resettlement had been received; she is still waiting for a place. Amira is so desperate that sometimes she thinks of trying to get into a boat headed for Europe to bring her family together again, but she does not want to risk her children’s lives.
To help refugees like Amira and the millions of others from Syria, JRS is calling for:
- An end to the war and to the deaths of innocent civilians.
- The international community, including the United States Government, to share responsibility for the support of Syrian refugees living in host countries through robust humanitarian assistance. Syrian refugees in neighboring countries must enjoy safety and decent living conditions.
- Donors and hosting governments to live up to their commitments to provide access to quality education for all Syrian children.(click here to learn more)
- The U.S. to live-up to its current commitments to resettle refugees, including Syrians, and to increase the number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. this Fiscal Year. The U.S. must also not put up barriers for entry such as the “travel ban.”